Posted on Leave a comment

Why do dogs shake their toys?

Last Updated on May 19, 2023

Have you ever watched your dog fervently shake its favorite toy, leaving you wondering what’s going through its furry little head? For humans, shaking a toy may seem nonsensical, but for our canine companions, this behavior has deep roots in their wild ancestry. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the reasons behind why dogs shake their toys and explore the science behind this fascinating behavior.
dog playing with a ball and running in the sand

An Introduction to Playful Canines

As part of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, and other wild canines, dogs have evolved over thousands of years into highly social and active creatures. Playtime plays a crucial role in their development as it provides not only enjoyment but also a platform to hone essential skills like hunting and communication.

Key Reasons Dogs Shake Their Toys

Here are some science-backed explanations for why dogs shake their toys:

1. Anticipation of a Reward: Dogs might shake their toys in the expectation of a reward, such as treats or an exciting game of fetch.

2. Cognitive Stimulation: Shaking toys may indicate a dog’s need for mental stimulation. This can be achieved through puzzle toys or engaging activities like hide and seek.

3. Exploring Prey Drive: Dogs have innate predatory instincts that involve shaking prey to immobilize it. When they shake their toys, it’s likely a display of this instinct rather than aggression.

4. Calming Anxiety: Shaking toys can serve as a means for dogs to self-soothe and release pent-up energy when they’re anxious or stressed.

5. Expressing Excitement: Dogs often shake their toys when they’re thrilled about a new toy or an impending walk, signifying their pure joy and enthusiasm.

6. Alleviating Boredom: If a dog starts shaking a toy when they have nothing else to do, it could suggest they’re bored and need more interactive playtime.

7. Asserting Dominance: In some instances, toy-shaking can denote dominance, particularly when paired with aggressive behaviors like growling. Should this behavior be observed, professional guidance should be sought.

8. Seeking Comfort: Dogs might shake their favorite toys as a comforting gesture, particularly when they’re overwhelmed or in an unfamiliar environment.

9. Inviting Bonding Time: Shaking toys could be an invitation for you to join in the fun, signaling a desire for some quality bonding time.

10. Displaying Natural Instinct: Toy shaking is an inherent dog behavior passed down from their wild ancestors. It helps dogs express their emotions and engage healthily with humans and other animals.

Remember, this behavior should always be supervised to ensure safe and enjoyable playtime for your dog and its human companions.

Breed Variations in Toy-Shaking

While all dogs have the instinct to shake their toys, some breeds are more predisposed due to their inherent traits or individual preferences. For instance, high-energy, active breeds, such as herding and sporting dogs, are more likely to exhibit this behavior.

Terriers, in particular, are known to shake their toys more frequently owing to their strong prey drive, which stems from their history as hunters of small animals.

Top Dog Toys

When it comes to selecting toys for your canine friend, consider these popular choices:

  1. Rope Toys: They offer mental stimulation and let dogs practice their chewing skills.
  2. Stuffed Animals: Ensure they’re securely sewn to prevent your pup from ingesting stuffing.
  3. Kong Toys: Ideal for keeping dogs engaged as they can be filled with treats or kibble.
  4. Squeaky Toys: The squeaking sound can captivate your pup’s attention.
  5. Interactive Toys: They stimulate your pup’s mind and promote positive behavior.

6. Frisbees/Flying Discs: These are great for outdoor activities and encourage physical exercise. 7. Plush Toys: Perfect for snuggling, and your pup might enjoy shaking and cuddling them.

  1. Rubber Toys: These can promote dental health through chewing and make great fetching companions outdoors.
  2. Bone Toys: These stimulate chewing, which can encourage healthy dental hygiene habits in dogs.
  3. Chew Toys: Designed for the toughest chewers, these toys provide comfort during stressful moments. Choose an appropriate size for your pup.

Supervision is key during playtime to ensure it remains safe and enjoyable for both your pup and you.

golden retriever-playing with a toy while having water splash on it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all dog breeds shake their toys? While most dogs enjoy shaking toys, not all breeds show the same propensity. To foster this behavior, offer them a variety of toys that stimulate their jaws and teeth.

Why do dogs shake their heads when they play with toys? The side-to-side head shaking during playtime is an instinctive behavior that simulates hunting, allowing dogs to catch and ‘kill’ their imaginary prey.

Why do dogs whip their toys? The whipping motion builds momentum to propel the toy forward, simulating a hunting chase. This also helps release excess energy and maintain mental stimulation.

Do dogs get bored of the same toys? Yes, dogs can get bored with the same toys. To keep your pup entertained, rotate their toys regularly, and consider treat-filled or food-dispensing toys for an extra challenge!


Play is a crucial aspect of a dog’s life, and shaking their favorite toy is one way they express themselves and stay entertained. By understanding the biological and evolutionary reasons behind this behavior, dog owners can appreciate their pup’s interactions and provide them with a more enriching environment.

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam. Unsubscribe any time.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *